The Clermont Casino is a part of the history of Mayfair. Dating back to the 1960s when it was opened by John Aspinall, it was located in a period building, at 44 Berkeley Square. A very popular hangout at the time, The Clermont Casino became one of the most exclusive casinos of the 60s and 70s.
Nowadays, everyone has the option to gamble online away from the public eye. They can play card games, and roulette or take free spins on Paddy’s Wonder Wheel to spend their money while allowing them the chance to win cash, scratch cards, or more free spins.
In the mid-1960s, this wasn’t the case. Anyone – including well-known people – had to gamble in person. Their best option for doing so was in private casinos or clubs, where they could spend their fortune in relative peace. Nestled in an exclusive part of London, where many of the wealthiest lived and socialised, the Clermont Casino was one such place.
Upon its opening in 1962, casino members included MPs, dukes, and earls. This exclusivity allowed members to gamble in peace and safety. The interior of the building added to the luxurious feel of the club with sweeping staircases, Romanesque pillars and luxurious furniture as a part of the decor.
The club was owned by John Aspinall, an eccentric entrepreneur, who enjoyed fraternising with the clientele and mixing in their circles. Growing up in India in a rich British family, Aspinall went to Oxford University, after which he became a bookmaker. As part of this, he organised gambling parties on different premises before setting up the Clermont Casino.
A Who’s Who of Clients
Due to the circles that Aspinall mixed in – he counted the Queen’s racehorse trainer among associates – his new venture attracted a rich and varied clientele. A list of members included David Stirling who founded SAS, the author Ian Fleming who created James Bond, and cricket billionaire Kerry Packer. While international guests weren’t rare either, Gianni Agnelli, part of the Agnelli family who owns FIAT and Juventus Football Club, was a regular too. It was a place brimming with wealth.
The Mystery of Lord Lucan
Lord Lucan is one such wealthy member who became intrinsically linked with Aspinall, the Clermont itself and also with its rich clientele. An Anglo-Irish aristocrat, born John Bingham, Lord Lucan grew up in wealth. He shared that much in common with those he fraternised with at the club. Like many of his friends, he went to private school and in his adult years, he developed a taste for gambling. He soon turned professional after leaving his job in a bank.
His days were spent gambling in the Club until his life turned into one of mystery. On the 7th of November 1974, he disappeared and was never seen again. There have been many supposed sightings of Lord Lucan, but never one that had been confirmed. His death certificate was eventually issued in 2016 when Bingham would have been 81.
Sale and Closure
With revenue growing in Clermont, Aspinall sold the club to Playboy in 1972. After the sale, Aspinall took some time out from the gambling industry. He returned to set up two more casinos in the late 70s, as well as his most famous venture, Aspinalls. Also located in Mayfair, it continues to operate to this day and contains a bust of Lord Lucan. The initial sale of The Clermont Club signalled the end of stable ownership. After Playboy’s licence to operate ceased in 1982, the casino changed hands constantly. And as the years went by, the charm and allure of what had made it so popular faded. The premises closed down in 2018. While it did reopen, it closed once more in 2022